Raleigh Paddle Sports Department Manager Chris Garrett paddles (and talks) a good game

For the next little while, we’ll be profiling the folks who are the backbone of Great Outdoor Provision Co. Though their roles may differ — from outfitting you for adventure, to managing stores, to determining the gear we carry — they share one uniting trait: a love of outdoor adventure. Today: Chris Garrett, manager of the Paddle Sports Department in our Raleigh store.


In 2004, Chris Garrett, then a student at Virginia Tech, wanted to spend Thanksgiving break with his girlfriend (now wife), Sarah. Trouble was, he only had a week and she was studying abroad on the other side of the globe, in New Zealand.
It was a whirlwind trip for the two adventurers: “It was 24 hours nonstop, from wheels up to wheels down,” recalls Chris, now the Paddle Sports Department Manager in our Raleigh shop.  “We only managed to get in the high points.”
But one of those high points was a paddle trip on Doubtful Sound on New Zealand’s South Island. “It’s on the southern coast in the cold, untamed lower latitudes.” Notes the New Zealand website realjourneys.co.nz, “With its rugged peaks, verdant rainforest and twisting, hidden inlets, Doubtful Sound will take your breath away. Home to abundant wildlife you may see bottlenose dolphins and fur seals at play, or catch a glimpse of a rare Fiordland Crested Penguin.”
“It was my first sea kayak trip,” says Chris, who, up to that point, had been more of a backpacker, cutting his teeth growing up with Boy Scout Troop 215 in Raleigh. “It definitely queued me up for paddling.”
His paddling passion took off when Chris came to work for us nine years ago and gravitated to the Paddle Sports Department.
We caught up with Chris one recent mid-week morning in the Cameron Village store to talk paddling.

Q. You and Sarah returned to New Zealand in 2012, this time wisely opting to spend a month in what many consider the adventure capital of the world. What’s the main difference you noticed between exploring New Zealand for a week — and for a month?

The biggest difference was that we got to cover more area. On our first trip we didn’t explore any of the North Island. And the first trip we only hit the high points. The second time around we got in two, three-day backpack trips, Tongariro and the Routeburn Track. Everyone knows the Milford Track,  but it’s in a valley. Routeburn is higher and, I think, prettier.

Routeburn wouldn’t have been possible on the first trip because of the setup: from beginning to end it’s a six- or seven-hour drive to set up the shuttle.

We did an overnight trip at Abel Tasman. It was clear, tropical-type waters but it wasn’t hot. And on the North Island we explored the volcanoes near Ruapehu.

Q. What is your craziest paddle story?

When I was first learning my way around kayaking, I had a coworker who was also a lifeguard at a local pool. We decided to go and practice rolling in the deep end of their pool before work one morning. The swim team was practicing in the lane section of the pool. After a fair bit of failure my first successful roll happened to occur while the whole team was waiting on the wall and watching. When I came up and regained my bearings, I realized that the entire swim team was applauding. That was pretty awesome.

In the store, I once had a lady who came in to buy a boat. I told her we’d get it loaded up, we walk out to her car — and it’s a Chrysler LeBaron convertible! I asked if she had another car she could use to transport the boat and she said no, that she would use this one. I advised against it, but she wanted to anyway. She put it in the passenger seat, buckled it in and took off. It was a Manitou Sport, about 11 feet long, so it didn’t stick up too much. It actually did better than I expected.

Q. Where’s your favorite place to paddle? Why?

I paddle a lot at Falls Lake. I live in Knightdale so I usually put in at the dam. I usually paddle close to the sides, to avoid traffic. I like to go to the Beaverdam area when I can. Beaverdam is nice because it’s closed to larger motor boats, and you can paddle under the Old Weaver Trail Road and explore the wetlands up there. It’s especially nice after a big rain and you can paddle farther up.

You don’t have to travel far from home to have a big adventure. In 2008, we paddled the length of the lake with two overnight stops, at Rollingview and Shinleaf. We put in off Red Mill Road in Durham County. I think it was 26 miles total.

Q. What boats do you have in your personal fleet?

I have two kayaks, a Necky Chatham 17 and a P&H Scorpio,  and a Mad River Journey canoe.

Q. Do you have a favorite boat?


Ah! My dream boat is the Hobie Tandem Island pedal, sail and paddle boat. (Chris says this much the way Ralphie says “an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!”). You can pedal it, you can sail it, you can stretch a tarp across the top and easily get four people on it. I’ll either convince the store to buy one as a demo or I’ll buy one myself.


Q. Where do you like to get outside with your family?

We get out on the greenway a lot, ever since they built the bridge over the Neuse that connects with our neighborhood in Knightdale. It’s about a mile and a half to the Neuse River Greenway, then we can go north to the dam or south to the Johnston County line (and on into Clayton; overall, the paved greenway runs 32 miles along the Neuse).

We’ve attempted camping with our 3-year-old … it’s good to try that locally in case you need to bail out of necessity.

Q. Any one thing in particular stand out about your job?

Even if I don’t get to paddle as much as I’d like, I still get to talk about it all day.